Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Matter of Perspective

Grace and I have a little slogan that we share with each other at times, to help keep ourselves and each other aware of the bigger picture.  If Grace hears me commenting or complaining about something, like the newest wrinkle in my face or cat hair on my sofa, she'll remind me, "That's a first world problem, Mom."   I do the same for her.  We don't do it all the time, because that would just be irritating and pretentious. Still, it's a reminder that we both need on a regular basis.

The point is this - we are aware that even if we live on the low end of the income scale in Canada, our needs and many of our wants are taken care of.  There are parts of the world where the majority of people lack the basics, and our problems would seem ridiculous to them.  Many of things that we struggle with are problems that come from our excess, or our desire for excess.  In our part of the world, we complain when our restaurant food isn't hot enough when it is delivered.  In the third world, just having food of any sort is a blessing.  Concerns about our appearances, our entertainment choices, our physical comforts, our fitness levels...we want to be able to see all of these in the light of reality for the world, not just our small corner of it.

What this does for us is create gratitude in situations where we are tempted to be ungratefully grumbly.  I can afford to feed the cats that leave hair on my sofa.  Women who have to toil for hours in the hot sun to feed their families can ill afford to worry about wrinkles.  We remind each other of these things because we want to live grateful lives, and because we want to see our existence here on this earth in relation to the experiences and lives of all her inhabitants, not just those around us, those that we relate easily to.

Another equally important benefit to this practice is that it restores us to a more appropriate perspective, even in relation to our own lives.  It shifts our problems into the places that they deserve.  When problems are given a significance that is too high, it can lead to volatile emotions. So, the laptop has died.  Is that the end of the world as we know it, or merely an inconvenience, as we still have access to computers and the internet at school and at the local library?  So, we have to walk to the library. How does that compare to walking five miles a day to get clean water?  It's a matter of perspective.

It is important to remember that we are not trying to demean or shame each other into denying how real our problems feel.  We are gentle with each other, because we understand that sometimes, our first world problems feel large, not in themselves but because of other issues lurking in the background.  My concern about another wrinkle may be linked to a fear of growing old or being rejected (I should add, I don't really worry about wrinkles. This is just an example. Besides, I'm so near-sighted, I couldn't see them unless I was nose-pressed to the mirror, and who has the energy for that?)  The point is that we offer each other a kind reminder of perspective, and we hope that by seeing our lives from a broader place, we might worry less and thank God more.

That is what the idea of our immortality does for us as well.  It offers a very real perspective on our lives, one that we often over-look. Next time, I'll write about this perspective in relation to my illness and the pain that I live with.  These are very encouraging things to think about, and to discuss.  There is no doubt that life, even here, can be hard.  Because of this, I think that it is important to know where our small troubles fit in, so that we are better equipped to deal with the big stuff. 

Just a thought.

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